What was the earliest Photoshopped image?
October 11, 2004 11:58 AM   Subscribe

What was the earliest significant photoshopped image? [mi]

Prior to Adobe's photoshop photographers often manipulated images. When did people start to manipulate images to create new "reality" ? What do you think the most effective manipulated image is (traditional or digital) ?
posted by b1tr0t to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
The Soviets did this all the time, particularly with cosmonauts who had died in unpleasant ways.
posted by PrinceValium at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2004

posted by jpoulos at 12:26 PM on October 11, 2004

In his book "The Mismeasure of Man", Stephen J Gould references some early examples of altered photographs in books published in the 1800's, badly done drawing--literally--in order to make the people in the photos look like 'cretins.'

Certainly, altering photographs has been around as long as photography has.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2004

Interesting article and a very famous example.
posted by punilux at 12:38 PM on October 11, 2004

yeah, the Soviets did that all the time. but jpoulos' example rocks. look at the massively divergent shadow patterns under LHO's nose and in the rest of the photo.

magic bullet, magic shadow, magic everything.
posted by matteo at 12:45 PM on October 11, 2004

The Commissar Vanishes is an excellent book about the Soviets photoshopping their way through the entire twentieth century. If you're interested in the historical effects of photo manipulation, it's a great read. There are a lot of marvelous examples and informative accompanying text. There's a NYTimes book review of it online, too.
posted by whatzit at 12:45 PM on October 11, 2004

If you're referring to software-based photo manipulation, I think that only hit the mainstream in the very early nineties. And by "mainstream" I mean that I had a subscription to Newsweek in college. I remember reading an article during my junior or senior year in which the author decried the coming age of altered photos. "Bah!" I thought. "That sounds like science fiction." Haha! What a naive boy I was...

I remember that Time took a huge amount of flak when they doctored a mugshot of O.J. for one cover. They changed the contrast (and perhaps the coloration) to generally give him a more, well, guilty appearance. That raised quite the holler, and they aplogized.

But none of this really answers your question, does it? :)
posted by jdroth at 12:48 PM on October 11, 2004

The Case of the Cottingley Fairies
posted by quonsar at 12:58 PM on October 11, 2004

I'll second whatzit's recommendation and add another: Photo Fakery: The History and Techniques of Photographic Deception and Manipulation, by one of the founders of the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:13 PM on October 11, 2004

Earliest I can think of is the "ghost photographer" who photographed Mary Todd Lincoln and make it look like her dead husband was resting his hands on her shoulders. He was exposed as a fraud who used double exposures to get the "visitations" that he captured.

But actual manipulation of already-printed photographs (if that's where we make the distinction for this question) starts later. Before Stalin, it was just used as a fun lark. But carefully cut-out figures placed were placed on other photos and reshot as soon as Eastman made photography less of a PITA.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2004

quonsar, those images weren't manipulated in any way. Its just that the girls posed with paper cut-outs.
posted by vacapinta at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2004

Its just that the girls posed with paper cut-outs.

Yeah; that's what always gets me about this particular case. You read about contemporary "experts" attesting that the photos weren't double exposures and that there was no manipulation of the negatives, and overlooking the fact that they're obviously pictures of CUT-OUT LINE DRAWINGS!!! They were overthinking that one just a bit...
posted by mr_roboto at 2:16 PM on October 11, 2004

More on Ghost Photography can be found here and here. I could have sworn there was once a MeFi thread on old spirit/medium photography - I remember seeing one of a man "levitating" where you could clearly see the stool he had been standing on was etched out. Also some (by our standards) very comically fake photos of mediums with "ectoplasm".
posted by Sangre Azul at 2:38 PM on October 11, 2004

The first modern case of photo manipulation I became aware of was when National Geographic, justly renowned for the quality of its photography, moved the Pyramids to produce a more "effective" cover.
posted by SPrintF at 6:23 PM on October 11, 2004

As for cases brought to the attention of the general public, how about TV Guide's marriage of Oprah Winfrey's head and Ann-Margret's body, with skin-tone matching? That was in 1989 -- scroll down in SPrintF's link to see the result.
posted by Dreama at 9:28 PM on October 11, 2004

Print magazine ran an article about this in the late nineties.

Along the lines of the OJ thing mentioned upthread, the same pic from the Oklahoma City bombing was color-corrected in dramatically different ways. These things only really show up whenever two places happen to get ahold of the same pic. Didn't happen with the Regan cowboy pic... must not have been a political upside there...

It also occasionally surfaces when the attempt at manipulation is laughably bad, as in this University of Wisconsin snafu.

Many more examples here.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:21 PM on October 11, 2004

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